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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Must reads -The Guardian, 'Great fairytales' (part 6)

Today in 'Justice and punishment' the Guardian is treating us to some very grim tales indeed (although interestingly none of the tales in today's booklet is by the Grimms). There's Little Red Riding Hood, in her earliest literary appearance - as written by Charles Perrault and translated here by AE Johnson, who interestingly omits Perrault's afterword which warns of the dangers of wolves; 'I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.'

Most people will be more familiar with the Grimms' version of the tale Little Red Cap in which the girl is rescued by the huntsman, personally I like the versions where she rescues herself; see here for one of the oldest recorded versions of the oral tale and visit The Poetry Archive for the fantastic version by Roald Dahl. If you're interested in finding out more about the little girl in red see my profile of Little Red Riding Hood.

Today's booklet also includes the terrifying The One-Handed Murderer by one of my favourite writers Italo Calvino (taken from his wonderful collection Italian Folktales) and translated here by George Martin; the disturbing The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Naomi Lewis; and from the Arabian Nights The Fisherman and Ifrit, translated by Malcolm C Lyons.

In today's afterword Sarah Churchwell looks at rewards and punishments in fairy tales:

'Fairytales are secular; they believe that rewards come in this world, not the next. They are grounded in the violent truths of human passions, our most unacceptable, untamed, uncivilised, unruly impulses. We learn to rule them eventually, and the tales help teach us how to control our desires. But they also teach the useful lessons of recognising wolves, outwitting genies, and packing a pistol, just in case.'
Today's illustrations are by Tyler Garrison, and the one I've featured above is taken from Little Red Riding Hood. I think these are my favourites so far this week but once again they are much better represented in the paper booklet so get it if you can.

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